The winds of change are upon us and some residents are none too pleased about being at the back of the north wind. Speculation about the project has become grist for the rumor wind-mill. Is Crab Orchard Wind conjecture or conquest?
Apex Clean Energy has drawn up plans to construct a 23-turbine windmill farm leasing land on Millstone Mountain in Crab Orchard to be built and operational by the end of 2017. Apex representatives for Crab Orchard Wind held an open house in Fairfield Glade (FFG) and Crab Orchard April 20 and 21 alternating between the two communities each day to be available for questions and information to anyone curious or concerned about the windmill project that will be built on the private property in Crab Orchard. Another open house has been tentatively planned for early June and will include visuals of what it will look like from several different vantage points in FFG.
Wind resistant FFG residents opposed to this project have formed a group called the Cumberland Mountain Preservation Coalition. They have been holding weekly meetings, passing petitions in church and writing to state politicians looking for a legal stance from which they may have a reason or the right to oppose, have a say in the decision making process and prevent Apex from building. The main arguments from the coalition against Apex building Crab Orchard Wind have been the view, noise and property values.
“Before construction, different aspects Crab Orchard Wind must go through various forms of government evaluation, including coordination with the FAA, USFWS, NTIA and TVA,” said Harry Snyder, Apex Clean Energy’s lead developer for Crab Orchard Wind. “On the whole, wind energy is one of the safest forms of electricity generation for wildlife and the environment, and Apex takes seriously its commitment to environmental protection.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy at energy.gov, wind energy offers many advantages, which explains why it’s one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the world. Research efforts are aimed at addressing the challenges to greater use of wind energy. Wind energy is clean. Wind energy doesn’t pollute the air like power plants that rely on combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas. Wind turbines don’t produce atmospheric emissions that cause acid rain or greenhouse gases. Wind is a domestic source of energy and the nation’s wind supply is abundant and sustainable. Over the past 10 years, cumulative wind power capacity in the United States increased an average of 30 percent per year, outpacing the 28 percent growth rate in worldwide capacity.
The following is an excerpt from the coalition’s information passed out at its meetings regarding its noise argument:
“Based on internet research, human exposure to wind farm noise is a significant issue. Infrasound is an inaudible level of noise, much less than 40–decibels, characterized as pulsating energy. Infrasound disorder is addressed at length on the Center for Disease Control website… The noises emitted from a large wind turbine can travel six miles or more based on topographical features of the site area and weather conditions. Human exposure can occur within and outside of an individual’s dwelling.”
A Wind Turbine Health Impact Study from Massachusetts University in 2012 stated, “Infrasound refers to vibrations with frequencies below 20 Hz… Most epidemiologic literature on human response to wind turbines relates to self-reported ‘annoyance,’ and this response appears to be a function of some combination of the sound itself, the sight of the turbine, and attitude towards the wind turbine project.”
In regard to the ability for infrasound to affect residents’ inner ears where sensory information about motion, equilibrium and spatial orientation is provided by the vestibular apparatus, the Massachusetts University study concluded, “Claims that infrasound from wind turbines directly impacts the vestibular system have not been demonstrated scientifically. Available evidence shows that the infrasound levels near wind turbines cannot impact the vestibular system.”
Another argument presented by the coalition states:
“Numerous internet articles describe property value losses of 30 to 40 percent because of nearby wind turbine farms. The inability to sell, leading to property abandonment, is not uncommon. This occurrence is documented across the United States, multiple countries in Europe, in Canada and Australia.”
According to the 2013 study by the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, “Across all model specifications, we find no statistical evidence that home prices near wind turbines were affected in either the post-construction or post–announcement/pre–construction periods.”
During the public comment section of the FFGCC Board meeting April 28, Tom Goebel questioned the board about the permitting process and whether or not Apex had conducted an environmental impact study.
“Our understanding is that anytime you have a wind farm, they actually work with US Fish and Wildlife to make sure that there are no environmental issues to be concerned with, so they, in essence, have to get a permit from U.S. Fish and Wildlife,” FFG general manager Bob Weber responded to Goebel.
After further insisting that the community would endure “social impacts,” Goebel inquired whether or not Crab Orchard had been given the opportunity to speak about the build and noted that FFG should “Be able to have a say as a community and not just those few individuals who might be able to see the windmills.”
Weber said, “Apex has been good about reaching out to the community. They reached out to us initially and actually had already two open houses both here in Fairfield Glade and also in Crab Orchard.”
Mary Nissen also spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, “Because I believe in fair and balanced collection of information, I had an hour long conversation with Harry Snyder who is the project manager for Apex. I found it to be a very interesting discussion. He followed up this morning with an email providing me with links.”
After handing the information to board members, Nissen continued, “My request, and my conversation with him, was based initially on the fact that I, a connected member of the community, had no idea that they were holding these meetings. I read extensively the [electronic] communications that come out.” She asked the board to send email blasts to the residents informing about further meeting events with Apex representatives and said, “So [members] can come to the meeting and ask the questions that they want. A lot of the concern that I’m sure is going to spiral in this community based on rumor and lack of information. Being informed and having the opportunity to be informed is a good move for the community.”
Goebel asked the board for their cooperation and support for residents to be able to make a case and have a say against the windmill farm set to be built in the North Ridge area on private property and pressed, “Can I count on the board to take an active role in determining if we have a role in the environmental protection? Can I get a commitment from you gentlemen and ladies?”
The FFGCC Board recently released a statement to the community regarding its position on the construction of Crab Orchard Wind:
“The Fairfield Glade Community Club Board of Directors and General Manager are actively involved in learning more about the wind farm in Crab Orchard, being proposed by Apex Clean Energy… Apex had been advertising in local newspapers, also making themselves available for meetings with residents… The Fairfield Glade Community Club Board has no legal rights to either stop this project or to encourage its construction. It is our commitment to be the entity to bring all the factual information to the members. We will do so as we have this information and have confirmed its validity. It is in the best interest of each board member to make decisions for the benefit of Fairfield Glade as each is a property owner as well.” (See full statement in this issue.)
The coalition has also presented the amount of land leased by Apex as reason for argument and that has become a source for fueling conjecture about more turbines in the future, as illustrated by the following excerpt from the coalition meeting notes:
“In the Apex Clean Energy meeting this past April 21, representatives said the project would involve 20 to 23 turbines constructed on 1,800 acres of leased land. One of their permit filings depicts 29 wind towers. The representative stated that a total of 7,000 acres of land has been leased. Apex further stated there were no plans or intentions to expand beyond the current number of planned towers. You must wonder, why lease so much extra land if it is not needed or intended for future use? Now, what if the project consumes all of the leased 7,000 acres?”
Snyder responded, “The statement that we’ve increased our project boundary is not correct. As we’ve explained at every public meeting, we have more than 7,000 acres under lease because that number represents the parcel size of the land we are evaluating. That 7,000 acres represents the envelope within which the project fits. Of that land, roughly 1,800 acres is suitable to be included within the project’s footprint. For example, in order to obtain 10 acres worth of land suitable for turbine siting, we sometimes have to sign a lease on 100 acres.”
Snyder further informed, “Of the 1,800–acre project boundary, less than 12 acres will be covered by turbines and associated access roads, as each turbine requires just 1/4 to 1/2 an acre of land to operate. There will be some additional clearing for roads and operations, collection lines, and maintenance facilities, but all told, the project will permanently impact no more than 40 acres of the total 7,000 acres of land under lease.
“We expect this project to be in operation by the end of 2017. Construction should take six to nine months. Because of the size of our interconnect and geologic features specific to the property, this project will be no more than 71 MW. We have no plans for additional turbines.”
The coalition has also argued that Apex gets 100 precent of the profits and government subsidies while FFG will get nothing. Apex is the investor, developer and operator for the project.
Snyder stated, “Crab Orchard Wind will be developed and built through private investment. However, like every other form of energy production, wind does receive a government tax credit. For wind, the most commonly used credit is the production tax credit (PTC). The PTC is a tax credit for only the verified production of electricity during the first 10 years of a project’s 30-year operational life. Therefore, there is no PTC involvement in the project until it becomes operational. Since it was first enacted, the PTC has generated more than a hundred billion dollars in private investment far in excess of the credit’s cost. This tax credit exists to encourage investment in wind energy as policymakers recognize both the need for a cleaner, more diversified energy grid and the intense public support for renewable energy. The Clear Path Foundation, a nonprofit focused on accelerating conservative clean energy solutions, found that 84 percent of Americans support developing clean energy as a way to reduce pollution, increase innovation and achieve greater independence.”
As far as a benefit for Cumberland County, based on the Economic Impact Study, Snyder mentioned, “Locally, Crab Orchard represents an investment of up to $130 million that will create jobs and generate a new long-term source of revenue for the county. Researchers at the University of Tennessee’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy studied the project and estimates that Crab Orchard Wind will generate $27.3 million in economic output for Cumberland County during construction and create roughly 111 jobs. Over the long term, the project will produce $1.4 million in annual economic output for the county and host seven permanent jobs. This is on top of the estimated $362,000 in annual tax revenue Cumberland County is expected to receive in new property tax receipts, an entirely new stream of revenue for essential government services like first responders and local schools.”
Apex representatives have requested the FFG Community and Conference Center meeting room June 1 from 8 a.m. to noon to host its next open house to show residents of FFG what the site may look like from the North Ridge area and other key areas of concern.
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